Kentucky crews help restore Florida veteran's pride

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Posted at 11:12 PM, Nov 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-01 23:12:33-04

(LEX 18) — For the Kentuckians who rush to disaster areas like the members of Emergency Disaster Services out of Lexington, the Hurricane Ian response has been a long assignment.

"Some of these guys, they're starting a new month. It's November 1. They've been here since late September. I know a lot of guys are missing their families, but that's part of this job," said Matt Daley, the EDS spokesperson.

Daley said they still have a handful of camps across Southwest Florida where they are housing first responders.

"These guys have an almost impossible task of having to remove all these downed trees, vegetation, you're still, in the Port Charlotte area and Fort Myers Beach area, you're still finding boats on top of Suburbans, and things of that nature," Daley said.

Every now and then, there are the moments that make it all worth it.

"It's one of those things that you don't forget when you leave this space," he said.

One of the firefighters living in the EDS camp came upon a man whose home was hit hard. His name is Sgt. Ed Hill and he is a Vietnam veteran. The storm had washed away two ceremonial American flags. One presented to him for his service. The other had been draped over his father's casket. He found the flags, but they were covered in mud. He asked the firefighters to dispose of them properly by burning them, but after the firefighters took them, everyone had an idea.

"We have a laundry service. Our laundry specialists decided, 'Well, let's take a look at this. Let's see if we can't dry clean these items in a professional way to try to maintain the integrity of those flags,'" Daley said.

The laundry crews were able to get the flags back in pristine condition and first responders from North Collier, Palm Coast, St. John's County, and Estero Fire Departments and the Lee County Sheriff's Office brought them back to Sgt. Hill.

As the firefighters and an EDS representative talked to Sgt. Hill, they learned he actually had his own Kentucky connection. His wife is originally from Breathitt County.

There are a lot of difficult moments in a disaster recovery, but this is the kind of moment they work for.

"That's the story you're going to tell your kids. It's the shot in the arm. It's the, 'Alright, I can do another two weeks. I can do another three weeks,' because you realize that that had a positive impact. You were a part of it," Daley said.

It's the kind of thing that will keep them going until the job is finished.